Wrong Way on the Freeway

Wrong Way SignWhen you are driving on the freeway and the yellow line appears on the right side of your vehicle, it's past time to correct the problem. You are driving on the wrong side of the road! Contrary to what one might think, instances of wrong way driving on divided highways are not rare. Thank goodness most instances are corrected by the wrong way driver before a crash occurs.

The most common contributing factors that place a driver on the wrong side of the freeway include impairment by alcohol or drugs, confusion (most often new or elderly drivers), inattention and deliberate choice. Confusion can be corrected for with logical ramp design and obvious signage. Inattention, alcohol and drugs can be controlled by the driver as well as most deliberate choices.

The most frightening to me is the idea that very little can be done to deter a driver that has decided on suicide. According to the BC Coroners Service there were 7 motor vehicle incident deaths in 2009 and 8 in 2010 due to suicide. There was no way of determining if these were single or multiple vehicle collisions.

What can you do to protect yourself from the wrong way driver? Watch the highway well ahead for signs of problems, which may include headlights on the wrong side. Use the left most lane of the highway as little as possible, especially on corners. Wrong way drivers usually drive in the inside lane or inside shoulder, believing they are actually on a two-lane highway.

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After witnessing someone driving the wrong way down a freeway more about 30 km in 2003, and responding in an ambulance by driving the wrong way on freeways in BC I thought about and noticed how there is a distinct lack of visual cues once a driver finds themselves on the wrong side of the freeway, particularly at night.

Once one spins out in a median, or enters a freeay the wrong way, or for whatever reason finds themselves going the wrong way there are no signs, only the cue mentioned above that the yellow line is one the right side.

I called the coroner's office and discussed it with a representative after a family was killed in the Parksville area a few years later. I was less than impressed with the representative's urgency to recommend improvements. I recommeneded new and refurbished highways have the cat eye reflectors showing red on the side facing the wrong way to indicate to drivers they are travelling the wrong direction.

Now years later on new highways I see that BC is finally placing new cat eyes in this manner.

As highways are refurbished I hope this becomes a useful cue to stop this dangerous behaviour.

Of course we need education to roll this out to drivers so they are aware of the dangerous significance if they ever see red cat eyes!

The biggest road hazard is elderly and uneducated drivers I think. If we want to stop the carnage being caused on our roads the next hurdle is solving the problem of drivers with a lack of skills, lack of knowledge, and impaired facilities. Mandatory driver funded testing every five years would go a long way to adressing this.

Speeding drivers, cell phone use, drunk drivers are all insignificant compared to the potential crash reduction if we adressed the incomptetence issue. We have already almost won the battle on drinking and driving. This is the next 'low hanging fruit' in road safety.